Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell
Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell provide tools for real life parenting through their company, Parenting Power™. Using over 40 years of combined experience, they work with parents across the country through telephone coaching and teleconferences to ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Visit www.parentingpower.ca
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The holidays are almost upon us, and whether you’re planning on hosting a gathering at your home this year or packing up the kids and visiting friends and family, you’re probably going to find yourself interacting with kids that aren’t your own. You may even find yourself in a situation where you’re asking, ‘Is it OK to discipline other people’s kids?’ While this varies by situation, here are three cases in which you can definitely step in and encourage a new behaviour.
- When the child is in your care (at your house, in your car, etc.)
- When the child is hurting you or your child
- When the child might hurt him/herself and there is no one around to stop it.
So how do we do it?
- When you have children coming to your house or they are in your care, we encourage you to set the expectations and consequences as soon as they arrive. Be sure to include lots of ‘do’ language, highlighting what the kids can do rather than what they can’t do.
When another child is harming your child, you can definitely step in, especially if the other parent is not. Again, use ‘I’ language. Rather than saying, ‘You pushed my kid, you better leave him alone!’ you can say, ‘I see you touching Jack. If you need him to move, please use your words and keep your hands to yourself.’
If you see a child who will hurt herself, someone else, or something and no other parent is there, you can certainly step in. Again describe what you see and then suggest an alternative. You might also ask, ‘What do you need to be doing right now?’ or ‘How can I help you to stay safe?’
- When you see misbehaviour, use ‘I’ language and apply the consequence. ‘I see people throwing cars. Cars drive on the floor. When you can show me how to use the cars properly, you can try again.’
- You may need to redirect behaviour and/or include the kids in a problem solving process so that they can figure out how to work together.
Finally, the root word of discipline is ‘disciple’. It is about teaching proper behaviour, not about punishing or getting revenge. This is essential to keep in mind, especially when another child is hurting your child.
Image of stress from Shutterstock.
In winter weather, getting the kids out the door is even harder than usual. Just when you get one dressed, the other has undressed again. How do we make it easier?
- Hand over responsibilities when you can. It sometimes seems easier to do everything yourself. This is not only exhausting—it sends a message to your kids that they are not capable of doing it themselves. Even a 2-year-old can get their boots from the closet and bring them to the front door. When we involve our kids in helping, they don’t feel like they are constantly being ordered around and are less likely to be defiant.
- Let the kids in on the secrets that are in your head and write them down with your kids (use words and pictures). You might know the plan for getting out the door–who needs what, when it needs to happen, etc., but do the kids? When we let our kids in on the plan and when we let them think that they planned some of it themselves, they feel more in control and are better able to help out.
- Take time to teach what needs to be done. Once you have a plan in place, print it out and post it near the door and then practice, practice, practice! Do a run through of the routine three times one afternoon. Let them have the chance to get good at it. Have the child read you the plan from the poster or have the child read the plan to their favourite stuffed friend. Practice and have fun with it.
- Acknowledge the tricky stuff. We encourage you to let your kids do what they can for themselves. Sometimes, when they are just learning, that can take forever! The really hard stuff you can do for them. Some good language to use is: ‘Zippers (socks, boots, mitts) can be tricky. I’ll help you now and we’ll practice it this afternoon. I know you can do it.’ Just don’t forget to actually practice this afternoon. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow through.
Image Credit: Image of Girl from Shutterstock.